Chapter 32:

I want to be there for her.

Light of my darkest eve

The silence between us weighs heavily on my mind, but I don’t have the strength to break it.

Just an “I’m so sorry” would feel completely disingenuous here. This isn’t just an ‘I lost a family member’ or an ‘I got kicked out of my home.’ It’s an entire childhood of suffering, culminating in an event that would break most people completely.

What do you say to that? I wish you didn’t have to go through all that? I’m glad you came out okay? Is there anything I can do to help? Everything I try to say just feels meaningless against such a colossal weight.

As I sit and try to think of anything I could say to make her feel better, it’s Hanji that eventually breaks the silence.

“Anyway, that’s what turned me into this. Hanji the broken girl, too jaded to give a shit. I’m guessing all this ‘falling in love’ shit you were talking about is all dried up by no-“
“That’s not true.”

That must be part of the reason she told me that story. She thought it’d scare me off, make me lose my feelings for her. How naive of her.

“But… I’m brok-“
“I don’t care. Broken, shattered, torn apart, call yourself whatever you want. Hanji is Hanji, nothing more, nothing less. The you I fell in love with was already ‘broken’ from the start, and I knew that. If finding out about your trauma was enough to make me drop you and lose my feelings, it wouldn’t have been love in the first place.”

Hanji looks at me like I’m an alien. It’s as if I’m speaking a foreign language. She doesn’t understand a word I’m saying, but that’s okay.

“I just… I don’t get it, Taro. What do you gain? What benefit is there to you to hold onto me like this? You’re only going to hurt yourself. You talk about things like ‘love’ and ‘feelings’ but I just don’t get it. How can any feeling be good enough to put yourself through so much pain over?”
“Didn’t you love Akina?”

Her eyes widen and her empty expression is suddenly filled with a feeling I’ve never seen on her before. I think it’s misery. Not just dejection or frustration, but pure despair. For the first time since I met her, Hanji’s eyes well up with tears.

“That’s not… that’s not fair. That’s different. She… Akina…”

She breaks down into a full cry, unable to put words together. It seems like she’s not used to feeling this way, she’s totally failing to keep herself together.
Biting the bullet and stowing my fear of angering her, I get up from my seat and sit next to her, wrapping her in a hug.

“Why… why are you so fucking selfless? Why are you trying to help me? You get nothing!”
She speaks through cracks and splutters, unable to control her crying.

“I don’t need to gain anything from you to love you, I just love you. And when I love someone, I want to help them. It’s as simple as that.”
She shakes her head and looks down at the ground, as if refusing to believe a word I say.
“It makes no fucking sense! What is there to love! You know I’m rotten! I’m scum! I can do nothing but hurt you! What the fuck do you love so much!”
“You loved Akina for trying to save you, right? For getting you away from the hell you were living in?”
“W-well yeah, but….”

“That’s what you did for me. The whole world labelled me a dangerous nutcase, someone too broken and too volatile to be around. I was desperate for someone to fix me, to make me normal. But you didn’t do that. You taught me that I don’t have to be normal. I don’t have to be fixed. With you, I felt like it was okay to just be broken together. I’ll never be a ‘normal’ person, but that’s okay. You taught me to live without letting myself be held back. You saved me. From my loneliness, from my despair, from myself. All of that was you. How could I not love you?”

Sappy though it may sound, those are my true and honest feelings. Selfishness be damned, Hanji’s actions are the only reason I learned to accept myself for who I am. I’d have wasted away as a self-pitying loner, but the day I met her my life was changed, and every day since my perspective has grown wider and wider. I can now see a life where once I saw nothing. I don’t have to be “Taro, the schizo boy.” I can just be “Taro.”

How could anyone not fall in love with that?

“I-I’m sorry.”

Shaking my arm off of her shoulder, Hanji stands up and runs from the roof, leaving me alone.

I should be worried again, that this is the end for me and Hanji’s friendship. But something tells me it’ll be okay. I just need to give it a little time.


“You’re completely head over heels for her, aren't you?”
"I won’t even try to deny it. I fell pretty hard.”

I arrived early to computer science, and once again found myself beaten there by Yosuke and Akane. It seems that my poorly-kept secret is already out.

“Bad tree to bark up, my man. Saki and I both told you already, Hanji’s a heartbreaker.”
“Wasn’t it you who told me that people don’t choose who they fall for?”
“Don’t use my own words against me, prick, that’s cheap.”

It seems like he doesn’t approve.

“I was wondering why she seemed so out of it at lunch today. Haven’t seen her looking like that since the last time she went to visit Akina.”
“So, Akina really does exist?”
“Even she wouldn’t lie about something like that.”
“I had assumed as much, but there’s always that seedling of doubt.”

After seeing her break down yesterday, I was pretty certain that everything she told me was true, but there was always the off chance it was an elaborate act to drive me away.

“Have you ever met her?”
“Akina? No. Even if she’s okay telling us about her family life, she keeps it as separate as possible from her school life. Not that she has much of a family life left in the first place.”

I’m never certain if Yosuke has a sharp tongue or if he just genuinely doesn’t understand why certain things should and shouldn’t be said. Not the most debilitating of disorders at this place, but always manages to catch me off guard.

My thought process is cut off by a quiet ping, which I realise is from my minimised discord tab.


I think you and Hanji would be cute together!
She can be a little mean
And she’s not good with feelings
But she really likes you! (>人<;)
In her own way at least
I’ve known her a while
She’s never gotten close enough to someone to talk about Akina so quickly before
Just give it some time
She’s a closed door, but she’s opening up with you
Little by little
Good luck (^ω^)

I’ll never get tired of reading Akane’s messages. Her typing style is nothing short of adorable, and her unabashed innocence and optimism is always lovely.

“Thanks Akane, that positivity of yours is always appreciated. I’ll do my best.”

She gives me a small wave of acknowledgment, a meek but genuine smile on her face. Since her anxiety around me died down a little, I’ve seen more and more of that smile, and quite frankly it’s incredibly pretty.

If I’ve judged the relationship between the two of them right, Yosuke’s a lucky man.

But I have no doubt he’ll take good care of her. After all, one of the best things Hanji did for me is introduce me to such good friends.

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